Historical Plaque: RLS


I ran across this plaque on the Chinatown Treasure Hunt this year, and again on Friday happy hour at Tunnel Top— a cool bar right on top of the Stockton Tunnel. I just love it that SF has a great literary legacy, and perhaps people don’t know, but we lay a claim to Robert Louis Stevenson. Notable works: Treasure Island, and In the South Seas. rlous_awy_2.JPG

I didn’t know that he had such a passionate reason to come to California:

In August 1879 Stevenson received a cable-gram from Fanny Osbourne, who by that time had rejoined her husband in California. Details are vague, but there seems to have been some last attempt by Osbourne to break with Stevenson; the contents of the cable were never revealed by either to family or friends. With the impetuosity of one of his own fictional characters, Stevenson set off from Greenock, Scotland, on 7 August 1879 for America. On 18 August Stevenson landed, sick, nearly penniless, in New York. From there he took an overland train journey in miserable conditions to California, where he nearly died. After meeting with Fanny Osbourne in Monterey, and no doubt depressed at the uncertainty of her divorce, he went camping in the Santa Lucia mountains, where he lay sick for two nights until two frontiersmen found him and nursed him back to health. Still unwell, Stevenson moved to Monterey in December 1879 and thence to San Francisco, where he fluctuated between life and death, continually fighting off illness.

from “Robert Louis Stevenson Biography”

And, from the wikipedia entry, some more details on his life in SF:

In December 1879 he had recovered his health enough to continue on to San Francisco, where for several months he struggled “all alone on forty-five cents a day, and sometimes less, with quantities of hard work and many thoughts,” in an effort to support himself through his writing; but by the end of the winter his health was broken again, and he found himself at death’s door.

45 cents a day, that beats my 60$ a week. It’s inflation, right.

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